Posts Tagged 'Brooklyn'


Picoides pubescensThat tap-tap-tapping coming from the Phragmites is usually a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens). Note those long toenail claws. Woodpeckers have zygodactyl toes, two pointing forward, two back. Most birds, the Passerines, or song birds, have three forward, one back. Picoides pubescens

Gowanus Dragon

gowanusThe anti-freeze color of the water is just about right here.

New Nest

Columba liviaRock Pigeon (Columba livia) nesting under the bridge. The bird was still working on the nest, using her body to shape these freshly collected twigs. The red-eyes are natural, not from a flash.


Mergus serratorRed-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) taking to the water.

Green-Wood is Red-Head Country

Melanerpes erythrocephalusThe Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) who came to stay? An unusual species for Brooklyn, this bird over-wintered in Green-Wood, and quite locally, too: this is the same tree — snags are perfect habitat for them — I photographed it in back in January. Melanerpes erythrocephalusYou can see how the red feathers of the head have really come in since January, as the bird has aged out of its first year plumage. Not completely, but getting there. The mature birds look like flags, solid bands of red, black, white. Red-headed males and females look alike, by the way, which isn’t the case with our other, more familiar woodpecker species (Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Yellow-bellied, and Northern Flicker).Melanerpes erythrocephalusThis species was not recorded as breeding in the city in either the first or second state breeding bird atlases. Those surveys, in fact, generally showed a substantial decrease in the species in the state over the twenty years between surveys, after what is presumed to have been a big drop off since the 19th century. Bull cites an 1881 report of “great numbers” of these woodpeckers, outnumbering the Northern Flickers, at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn; but “nothing remotely resembling these fall flights has been reported in the northeast since the early 1880s.” It is always startling to be reminded that not only were there more species, but the numbers of species we know were greater before our time. (There are records of recent breeding on other parts of Long Island.)Melanerpes erythrocephalusWho doesn’t love a redhead?

A Terrible Beauty

tbSomething oily on the Gowanus this way comes.

Hairy Nest?

Picoides villosusA female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). Less common in our area than the smaller but otherwise very similar Downy Woodpecker. I find that the best way to differentiate these species is to look at the bill/head size ratio. Note how this bird’s bill is almost as long as her head; the Downy’s bill length is smaller than its head length.Picoides villosusAnyway, it was with some surprise that I saw this bird fly to this hole. I didn’t know they nested in the city of five boroughs. Picoides villosusThe 2nd Atlas of Breeding Birds in NY State, surveyed in the mid-Oughts, had a confirmed Hairy nest in Brooklyn (Prospect Park), but the first (mid-1980s) had none in NYC. cavityThis bird was probably just scouting this hole and cavity, which she went all the way into. No sign of a male in the ‘hood at this time. It’s too early for young ‘uns, but the woodpeckers are definitely carving up the trees in preparation (this hole does not look all that fresh). Melanerpes carolinusFor instance, this Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), pecking out a cavity at a nearby tree.

After yesterday’s depressing post, you may wonder how I can go on. Because I must! B’damn, that’s what makes me human, I think. Says that optipessimist Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”


Passer domesticus

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus variusThe Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is another of those unfortunately-named birds, since the yellow belly is really hard to see. The namers were looking at dead specimens. The sapsucking part is accurate, though; these birds will drill horizontal rows of holes in trees to bleed sap, which they will lap up along with the bugs attracted to the sticky nectar.Sphyrapicus variusRed on the throat tells us this is a male. Note how the tail is pressed down towards the trunk; woodpecker tail feathers are stiffer than most birds’, to help support the bird on its vertical forages.


Anas rubripesOn the water, American Black Ducks in action. Considering the brief but un-Disney-like results to follow, best to look away for the moment since this is an all-ages blog.Woodpecker nestUp above, the work of a Red-bellied Woodpecker, which he will have to defend against:Sturnus vulgarisUnless Accipiter cooperiia Cooper’s Hawk intervenes. It could go either way. Meanwhile:Junco hyemalisThe snowbirds, Dark-eyed Juncos, prepare to migrate away from us. But even with ice still on part of the Upper Pool:turtlesTurtles basking in the upper 30s.


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